County and municipal elected officials came closer to ironing out an agreement this past week on the division of an anticipated $33.2 million in receipts from a proposed extension of a countywide 1-cent sales tax.

Leaders from the county’s seven municipalities and Colquitt County Commission worked out most of the issues of the cities’ requests. Initially Doerun, Ellenton, Norman Park and Riverside had requested funding significantly greater than the amount they would have been entitled to under a split based on those cities’ population.

Under the formula discussed Thursday, the funding amounts and percentages would be as follows:

• Colquitt County, $19.495 million; 58.73 percent

• Moultrie, $9.89 million; 29.83 percent

• Berlin, $375,000; 1.13 percent

• Doerun, 652,000; 1.96 percent

• Ellenton, 321,000; 0.70 percent

• Funston, 290,000; 0.87 percent

• Norman Park, 722,000; 2.17 percent

• Riverside, 40,000, 0.10 percent

In addition, $1.5 million are included for Moultrie recreational facilities that are used by residents from around the county.

The total amount of that package of $33.2 million was increased from a more conservative initial estimate of $30 million in revenues from the special purpose local option sales tax over a six-year period.

The next step in the process is consideration of requests from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Development Authority and Colquitt County Hospital Authority.

Earlier this year, the hospital authority requested $10 million in sales tax money to help pay for a planned $35 million expansion at Colquitt Regional Medical Center.

The authority’s plans include upgrading the hospital’s operating and emergency rooms and an OB-GYN unit.

The development authority also has discussed the issue of sales tax dollars. It received $5 million from the sales tax approved by voters in 2002 and $2 million from the sales tax approved in 2006. It has about $600,000 remaining from those earlier tax receipts.

Colquitt County Commissioner Billy Herndon said the hospital project deserves some consideration.

“They’re fixing to do a $35 million project to try to bring some doctors in here,” he said. “If you build (something) big enough and with all the equipment in it, you’ll get them in here. I do know we need to do something out there.”

Former County Administrator Marion Hay, who was representing Ellenton at the meeting and also chairs the development authority, pointed to projects he said that agency brought in. Those include chicken processor Sanderson Farms and 1,500 jobs and National Beef, which employs nearly 500.

“Without jobs, without some income you can’t pay a hospital or have money (for recreation),” Hay said. “We’ve got enough money to buy a Class-A industrial tract, but we don’t have enough money to develop it.”

To provide money for one or both of those projects the amounts for other governmental entities would have to be trimmed or the tax would need to bring in more than the projected $33.2 million.

A vote on the proposed sales-tax extension could come in November. The group of elected officials is looking to have an intergovernmental agreement signed by the end of August to ensure time for it to be put on the ballot in the fall.

If approved by voters, collections on the new sales tax would begin in March 2013, seamlessly transitioning from the current sales tax approved in 2006.

 

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